While his plans for the controversial Garden Bridge might have flopped, Thomas Heatherwick is still determined to change the face of London with his designs – his latest venture is to completely overhaul the iconic Olympia in West London, transforming the Victorian landmark into a slick hotel, theatre and entertainment space.
The aim is to turn the 130-year-old exhibition centre into a new creative district that will put West London on the map once again. Heatherwick described the area as an ‘eerily unalive’ part of the city and hopes to create an enriched cultural environment for creatives who are currently being driven east by unaffordable work spaces in the area.
Built originally as the National Agricultural Hall by architect Henry Edward Coe, Olympia has a deep-rooted history as an exhibition venue, with the owners Yoo Capital and Deutsche Finance pledging to honour and celebrate its iconic heritage as part of the redevelopment.
Managing Partner of Yoo Capital Lloyd Lee said: ‘Our Victorian forefathers first conceived Olympia London to be a destination for all people to see, learn and experience major exhibitions, events in culture, music, technology, arts and sports. We are listening to local stakeholders Hammersmith and Fulham Council, the Greater London Authority, exhibition organisers and the local community to ensure Olympia London achieves its original vision.’
Having appointed Heatherwick Studio, which will work in collaboration with SPPARC Architects, the owners hope the design teams will deliver museums, co-working spaces, restaurants, retail units, a hotel and theatre on the 14-acre site, in addition to maintaining the vast exhibition spaces that already exist at the Kensington venue.
Heatherwick said: ‘My studio’s passion is improving the public experience of cities for everyone. During this first phase we are beginning to talk to people, particularly local residents and visitors, to learn more about Olympia London and are looking forward to working on the project’.
Currently, the exhibition space hosts more than 200 events every year, including London Design Festival’s 100% Design show, and the Victorian halls are expected to remain as the centrepiece of the redevelopment project, which is expected to cost in the region of £1bn.